Friday, June 25, 2010

Wedding Anniversary Dinner, Two Ways ... The First Way: Dinner Out at Zaytinya in DC

 
Ah, the view from the top ...

Poppa Trix and I love surprises, especially food-related ones.  So what better way to celebrate our  2nd anniversary than by taking turns surprising one another?  And Poppa came up with the perfect one for me: He took me to Zaytinya in Washington, DC, where Mike Isabella from last season's Top Chef cooks up some seriously good food. The specialty here is inventive Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese small plates, with a particularly strong selection of seafood dishes.

When we first arrived, I was a little nervous that conversation would be out of the question, as it's quite cacophonous on the first floor, but Poppa Trix had done his homework. We were immediately escorted to a cozy nook on the top floor. Romantic evening - saved!

But first things first: cocktails.  I became a little obsessed with Aperol spritzers in Vienna, so naturally I went for the Aperol "Faux-groni:"
I know that the slightly bitter taste of aperitifs like  Aperol or Campari is not for everyone, but I think it's the perfect pre-dinner drink to whet the appetite. The plate to the right contains spiced olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the shape of the letter "z" ... for Zaytinya. Cute! And to dip in the olive oil:


A never-ending supply of fresh pita bread, still warm from the oven and ever-so-lightly dusted with salt. I could have happily munched on this all night, but I needed to save room for other goodies. To make further use of that bread, however, we ordered three spreads: labneh, a strained Lebanese yogurt with z'atar spice; taramosalata, a fluffy and slightly briny cured carp roe; and htipi, marinated roasted red peppers, feta, and thyme:


I loved these spreads so much that frankly I would have called the dinner a success if I had nothing else, but ... the small plates beckoned. We started with crispy Brussels sprouts afella, with whole coriander seed, barberries, and garlic yogurt ...


and a house special of fried oysters:
The Brussels were crispy on the outside and tender on inside, and I particularly enjoyed how biting into the whole coriander created surprising little "pops!" of flavor. As for the oysters - if all fried food tasted this light, I'd be in big trouble. The oysters themselves were  plump and juicy inside their little crunchy jackets.

The oyster dish contrasted nicely with this pillowy soft slow-poached olive oil salmon,  which came with a spicy eggplant and cracked green olive saltsa:
Could we have stopped here? Yes. But so many seafood dishes beckoned ... like the seared scallops on a yogurt dill sauce:
And I am so glad we saved room for our two favorite dishes of the night, the prawn kishkash, head-on prawns with basil and Persian charred tomato sauce; and the grilled baby octopus with marinated onions, capers, and a yellow split pea puree:
Our waiter warned us that the prawns still had their heads. "Some people are taken aback by that," he said. I don't blame him: How could he know that Poppa Trix and I nurse a hardcore addiction to New Orleans style barbeque shrimp? I'm taken aback when the prawns don't still have their heads, because how else am I supposed to suck out the sweet brains? (At this point I must stop and apologize to my vegetarian readers. ... if I still have any.)

And that octopus ... so tender.  Eating it erased a lifetime of emotional scars and trauma accumulated from being repeatedly served chewy, rubbery octopus.

And now I would like to tell you that we had dessert, however ... the heart was willing, but the flesh was very, very full. We had to settle for coffee, as we had a bit of a drive ahead of us.  But I'm not complaining - this was such a sweet anniversary surprise. Awesome job, Poppa Trix!

Stay tuned for Part Two ... in which I surprise Poppa Trix with a homemade Creole treat.  Happy anniversary Poppa, and here's to many more.


Returning to the scene of the crime: on the New Orleans streetcar on our first anniversary trip





23 comments:

  1. You and Poppa T are da bomb! what an attractive couple. I love your love of food and your recipes....keep up the beautiful work.

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  2. Great sounding dinner Trix, I could drink zatar yoghurt. The barberries in the brussel sprouts caught my eye since i just saw them on an order sheet and wondered, hmmm what would I used that for??? Now I know. It looks like his part of the anniversary was well done... now for yours!!! Happy anniversary!

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  3. Happy Anniversary Trix. Glad you had a wonderful time. Look forward to the creole feast. My kind of food.

    Be well...

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  4. happy anniversary! such an amazing way to celebrate - great job! :)

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  5. Thanks for sharing your anniversary feast, the meal looks incredible! Happy anniversary, look forward to part two:-)

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  6. Absolutely love Zaytinya, I visit every time I'm in DC!

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  7. Great restaurant. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

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  8. Wow, wow. so love aperol too. this looks amazing and the biggest congrats

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  9. You two are so perfect together and adorable! happy anniversary! such an amazing couple way to celebrate I love all the foods and seafoods are my fav! and look forward to more of your recipes....keep it all coming!

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  10. You two are cutie pies. Happy Anniversary and many many many more.

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  11. Oh my goodness, I am coming to MD to go to that restaurant! What a perfect pick for a 2 yr anniversary! Everything, just every single dish makes my mouth water, and yes I prefer shrimps with their heads on, so much more flavorful and fun to eat, I love to dirty my fingers once in a while! Then I noticed you are wearing the dress you wore on your wedding day with those cute dots! Adorable!

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  12. thanks for having us along on your wedding annv dinner Poppa Trix surpprised you with... such a great fella he is, you better keep him - love the dishes though I'm not sure how you two mananged to put away all that...looking so forward to your Creole cooking...hurry up now, ya hear!!!!

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  13. What a great anniversary celebration. Lovely pictures. It would be great to eat at a Top Chef contestant restaurant. Looks like Poppa Trix had it all under control. Looks like you had a great #2 Many more to you both!!

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  14. How lovely! Happy anniversary to both of you. Look so perfect together!

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  15. Mmm, that restaurant dishes look great... and happy anniversary!!

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  16. Happy 2nd wedding anniversary! We are doing the same thing with surprises except we are taking turns by year surprising each other. Last year my hubby surprised me with staying in Manhattan and planning things to do, this year it's my turn. All of that food looks incredible, especially unending pita bread!

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  17. You both look so adorable; love you in your fifties glasses and outfit! Had heard of Lebanese restaurants in DC as being the best in the country and now I can see why! GReat choice!

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  18. Hey Trix, so nice that you two had such a good meal together, and what a beautiful restaurant. We don't have places like that around here. By the way, I haven't had Aperol but I love Campari. And I love to suck the brains out of spicy shrimps, but don't tell anyone. Everybody thinks I'm a vegan...
    p.s.-thanks for the info on W.F. tortillas.

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  19. Awesome meal! And why is the view from the top always the best??? Happy Anniversary, Trix! You are a doll. And Poppa Trix is a gem. Oh, what fun it is to surprise each other like that! I can't wait to see your surprise for him. ;)

    PS: I am a struggling vegetarian wannabe. Sigh. Blame it on sashimi.

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  20. Congratulations! Terrific pictures, especially the one of the two of you. :)

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  21. OMG! What an adorable pic of the two of you! Okay, so I can hardly wait for the creole post! Will you please use some file powder in it so I can finally figure out what to do with my Penzey's spice purchase?

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  22. Happy anniversary to you and your husband :) you make a darling couple.
    *anniversary kisses* HH

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  23. Happy anniversary! What a sweet idea to celebrate at Zaytinya. I like the attention to detail with the food. The pita bread would be something I would be noshing on all night. I also like the sound of coriander seeds popping in my mouth, I hope you figure out a way to recreate that dish and share it with us. :)

    Last, I'm with you on sucking the heads of the shrimp. It's unlikely I'll ever write it on my blog, but it's good!

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